best bows in skyrim

Best Bows in Skyrim

Latest posts by Arron Kluz (see all)

It is a common joke within Skyrim‘s community that every character falls into being a stealth archer. This is because it is the most powerful way to build a character and can lead to players wiping the floor with even high-level enemies.

I’m talking about sneaking through entire dungeons and just one-shotting everything that moves. However, if you want the experience of being a stealth archer in Skyrim, you’ll need to get your hands on a solid bow. So, here are my absolute favorite options to use.

skyrim best bow

Selection Criteria

When ranking the bows in Skyrim, there is a lot to consider. One element is the Bow’s power and how much it weighs. This is an obvious metric that many players will care about since killing things as efficiently as possible is one of the main goals of Skyrim.

However, when I play an Elder Scrolls game, I also care a lot about the loot I get. Adventuring and completing quests is fine, but there must be a point to doing it. There have to be rewards that make the time and effort all worthwhile.

So, I also like gear that has a unique appearance and power or feels great to earn. Stats aren’t everything in an RPG like Skyrim, so some of the bows below are also ranked with those elements in mind.

This list also includes bows from Skyrim’s major expansions and the officially released Creation Club content. However, I have not included bows from popular mods or unofficial community content to prevent unofficial gear from making a list.

This way, any player that purchases the most recent version of Skyrim, the Anniversary Edition, can access all of the weapons below. For the stats of the bows, I will also be using their most potent variants, unlocked when the player gets them at level 36 or higher, to keep things consistent.

Gauldur Blackbow

gauldur blackbow skyrim

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
14 18 Absorbs 30 Magicka Steel Dwarven Smithing 972

Despite being at the bottom of this list, Gauldur’s Blackbow is one of my absolute favorites in Skyrim. This is because it uses the Ancient Nord Bow model but gives it some unique enchantments to help it stand out. I love that it uses that appearance, making it feel grounded and like it is part of Skyrim‘s history.

It is just a regular bow made unique by the man who wielded it, which is neat to see in a setting filled with Daedric Princes and powerful artifacts.

The Gauldur Blackbow is found while completing the Forbidden Legend quest, which is started by reading the book Lost Legends. To get the Bow, players have to kill Sigdis Gauldurson, which makes earning it feel a bit more rewarding.

The Bow’s stats are solid, but they don’t stand up to the rest of the bows on this list. With a weight of 18, the Bow deals a base damage of 14 with an enchantment that drains the target’s Magicka by 30 points. This damage is acceptable but is a tad low for a level 36 player.

However, its enchantment makes it helpful in fighting Magicka-focused enemies like Dragon Priests. But it is useless when fighting most enemies across Skyrim, which is why it’s at the bottom.

Stalhrim Bow

Stalhrim Bow

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
17 15 Stalhrim Ebony Smithing 1800

Stalhrim Bows were added with the Dragonborn expansion and had one of the best non-artifact models in all of Skyrim. Its design is so simple and elegant that I wish the base game’s glass weapons featured similar pared-down designs, but I digress.

Players can only get a Stalhrim Bow by crafting it themselves after learning how to craft it with the material on the island of Solstheim. It also requires the player to have the Ebony Smithing perk, requiring level 80 Smithing.

The statistics of the Stalhrim Bow are also solid for a non-artifact weapon. Its base damage is 17 with a weight of 15 and speed of 0.56. I really like the Stalhrim Bow, though, because it is just a base weapon. Players can make one and enchant it to fit their preferences.

Even better, with level 100 Enchanting, players can throw two enchantments on it at a time. Since it is made of Stalhrim, it also makes the Chaos Damage enchantment 25% stronger, so I love how much room the player has to improve it.

Ruin’s Edge

Ruin's Edge
Image source: Elder Scrolls Fandow Wiki
Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
12 7 Randomly applies one of the following: 

 

  • Demoralize
  • Drain Magicka
  • Frenzy
  • 25 points of Frost Damage
  • Paralyze for 15 seconds
  • Paralyze for 1 second
Daedra Heart Daedric Smithing 750

Ruin’s Edge is a bow from the Shivering Isles expansion from Oblivion. It was added to Skyrim through a Creation Club pack with the same name. Players must run through the Stony Creek Cave dungeon to unlock the Bow and kill its final boss.

The best part of Ruin’s Edge is its captivating appearance. It is strangely thick for a bow and has weird fins protruding from the sides. Then, there is also a crazy eye that stares at you and moves around. It’s unlike anything else in the game and is just awesome to look at.

However, Ruin’s Edge is slightly brought down because of how lackluster its stats are. It has a great low weight of only seven, but it deals a pitiful 12 damage. The only mechanical reason to use it is for its unique enchantment that adds a dose of randomness to combat.

Whenever an enemy is hit with Ruin’s Edge, it applies either Demoralize, Paralyze, Frenzy, Drain Magicka, or extra Frost Damage. The effects aren’t powerful, so only use Ruin’s Edge for the novelty for a bit and then switch to something more capable.

Firiniel’s End

firiniel's end

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
13 12 Deals 20 Frost damage to Stamina and Health Refined Moonstone Elven Smithing 662

Firiniel’s End is a unique Elven Bow given to the player during the Bound Until Death quest. Since it is an Elven Bow, its stats are pretty lackluster, but its enchantment is strong enough to make it well worth using. With a weight of 12, the Bow only deals 13 damage, which won’t be helpful for long unless you get it at a lower level.

The natural appeal of Firiniel’s End is its enchantment. Every target hit by the Bow takes an extra 20 Frost damage and is slowed by 50 for three seconds.

Frost damage isn’t the most useful since the game is in Skyrim, where every Nord and most beasts resist it. But I like using the slow effect of the enchantment for fighting outside of stealth. Slowing down melee combatants is helpful to maintain space between you and keep them at bay while you fill them with arrows.

Glass Bow of the Stag Prince

glass bow of the stag prince

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
16 14 Wielder’s Health and Stamina are increased by 5 for every 20 animals killed with the bow, up to a maximum of 25 Refined Malachite Glass Smithing 375

Added to Skyrim in the Dragonborn expansion, the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince can be a bit of a headache to get. It is usually sold by the merchant Falas Selvayn, but since Skyrim is an Elder Scrolls game, it can get glitched. This is because sometimes Falas will equip the Bow, requiring the player to pickpocket him with the Misdirection perk to get it.

However, getting the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince is well worth it, even if you aren’t a worshipper of Hircine. With a weight of 14, it deals 16 damage, which is only one higher than a standard glass bow. But that doesn’t count for its enchantment, and I love its unique enchantment.

The enchantment increases the player’s Health and Stamina by five when the Bow is first found, which isn’t very strong. For every 20 animals, the Bow is used to kill.

However, that increases up to a maximum of 25 extra points. That enchantment still isn’t significant enough to get higher on this list, but it is an exciting feature that I wish more magical weapons in Elder Scrolls had.

Daedric Bow

daedric bow

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
19 18 Ebony Ingot Daedric Smithing 2500

The daedric bow is just a regular piece of equipment, but it looks fantastic. Its sleek black design contrasts with sharp points jabbing out at different angles, making it one of the most iconic in the game. That frightful appearance is also backed up by an excellent base damage value of 19 and a weight of 18.

While that is a bit heavier than most archers will want to use, base damage of 19 is well worth the trade-off. Since it is base gear, it can also be enchanted, just like the stalhrim Bow. This opens up the possibilities, allowing players to experiment and tailor it to their playstyle.

Nightingale Bow

nightingale bow

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
19 18 Slows enemies down for 3 seconds, deals 30 Frost damage, deals 15 Shock damage Ebony Ingot Arcane Smithing 2500

The Nightingale Bow is given to the player after they pledge their loyalty to Nocturnal during the Thieves Guild questline. The ceremony that gives it to the player is fantastic to watch the first time playing through it, especially since players are also given a complete set of matching armor with some great buffs for stealth builds.

The Nightingale Bow is statistically identical to the daedric Bow. It has a base damage value of 19 with a weight of 18. What helps make it memorable, however, is that it has a unique enchantment with three effects. This makes it more effective than bows that even players with maximum Enchanting could match with only two enchantments.

The Bow’s first enchantment deals an extra 30 frost damage to targets. The extra damage is always significant, but this effect is hampered slightly by Skyrim’s prevalence of frost resistance. Its second effect is dealing 15 shock damage to enemies. Since players are much less likely to find enemies resistant to shock damage, this one is great.

Finally, the Bow slows down enemies by 50 points for three seconds. While that isn’t very long, it is enough to stagger them and get another shot off if your aim is good enough.

My favorite thing about this Bow, however, is its uniqueness. It has a unique model that makes it stand out, and the player gets a unique cutscene and ceremony to unlock it, making it feel even more special. This also makes its power feel even better, making you feel like you earned something worth working for.

Dragonbone Bow

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
20 20 Dragon Bone Dragon Armor 2725

Items crafted using dragonbone are some of the most difficult to obtain. They require a lot of rare resources and highly high crafting skills. So, it is no wonder that the dragonbone Bow is so strong.

The dragonbone Bow deals the most damage of any non-artifact bow. Its base damage and weight are both 20, so it is pretty heavy. However, being able to enchant it means that it can frequently compete with the highest damaging weapons in the entire game with smart enchantments.

I also like this Bow because it fits the player’s character well. Its appearance is excellent because of its unique and rugged appearance, which matches Skyrim‘s harsh environments. It also feels right to use since the player is playing the last Dragonborn, so it only feels natural for them to wield a weapon forged from dragonbone.

Bow of Shadows

bow of shadows skyrim

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
19 18 Weapon is drawn 20% faster and makes wielder invisible for 30 seconds Ebony Ingot Arcane Smithing 2500

The Bow of Shadows is a unique bow that was initially in Morrowind. However, a Creation Club creation of the same name was added to Skyrim, allowing players to get their hands on the powerful weapon all over again. It is earned by completing the quest In the Shadows, added with the small DLC.

My least favorite part of the Bow of Shadows is its appearance. While it stayed true to its original appearance in Morrowind, it looks out of place in Skyrim. This is because of how simple of a design it is. It doesn’t visually register as powerful as it is, which is a bit disappointing.

Getting the Bow is also a bit dull. The quest sees the player saving the Jarl of Whiterun from an assassination attempt, which is an excellent idea for a quest. However, Creation Club content tends not to be as big or intricate as quests from the main game, and the Bow of Shadows suffers from that.

Stopping the assassination attempt ends up feeling like a speed bump on the way to getting the Bow rather than an exciting challenge or small story. If earning the Bow had been better, it would likely rank even higher on this list.

However, the Bow of Shadows does overcome these downsides by being strong. It has a weight of 18 and a damage value of 19, which isn’t incredibly high. The Bow’s real power comes from its unique enchantment.

The first part of this enchantment is that the Bow is drawn 20% faster than usual. This is great for quickly shooting enemies that notice you while sneaking, so you can still get the extra damage from hitting them from stealth. The second part of the enchantment is that drawing the Bow casts invisibility on the player for 30 seconds.

This also helps players stay in stealth while getting caught, but is an indispensable tool for stealth builds that don’t want to invest heavily in Illusion or Alchemy to be invisible. It can get annoying to repeatedly equip and unequip the Bow to stay invisible for a prolonged period, but it is well worth the bother.

Auriel’s Bow

auriel's bow skyrim

Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
13 11 Deals 10 Sun damage/20 Sun damage to Undead Refined Moonstone Elven Smithing 1000

Auriel’s Bow is my favorite Skyrim bow available through normal means in the game. It was added as part of the Dawnguard expansion and is given to the player during the Touching the Sky quest toward the end of the quest line.

The Bow’s stats are honestly pretty lame. It deals 13 base damage with a weight of 11, which is pretty weak at higher levels. Its enchantment is also weak. It charges an additional ten points of sun damage to targets, increasing to 20 points if used against undead enemies.

With how many Draugr players kill during Skyrim, you’ll be dealing 20 sun damage a lot, but that still isn’t enough to be that useful. This is more than made up for with everything else about Auriel’s Bow, however.

First is the Bow’s appearance. While it isn’t very complicated, Auriel’s Bow is said to have been wielded by the elven god Auri-El. To reflect this, the Bow largely resembles a standard elven bow, but it looks like it is an exceptional version of one. This significant detail helps ground it in the lore of the setting while also giving it a unique look that doesn’t feel completely alien to it.

The absolute best part of Auriel’s Bow is its extraordinary power. During the Dawnguard quest line, players can receive Sunhallowed Elven Arrows or Bloodcursed Elven Arrows to use with the Bow. Each of these has a different effect when shot at the sun. Using them also feels just incredible.

Both effects are so transformative that they allow players to have an impact unlike anything else in the game. Doing it also feels great because it is the only effect that interacts with the world like that in the game, and both effects are mechanically unique and exciting to boot.

When the player shoots Bloodcursed Elven Arrows at the sun, it is covered in an eclipse for up to 24 hours. This completely negates its weakening effect on vampire characters, making it extremely useful for those players.

If a player instead shoots a Sunhallowed Elven Arrow, the sun sends down a volley of powerful rays to damage nearby enemies. While not quite as visually impactful as the eclipse, this effect is still amazing to witness and can make you feel powerful when using it to quickly wipe out a bandit camp.

Karliah’s Bow

karliah's bow skyrim
Image source: Elder Scrolls Fandow Wiki
Damage Weight Enchantment Upgrade Material Upgrade Perk Value
25 9 Ebony Ingot Ebony Smithing 5

When I said Auriel’s Bow was my favorite in the game available through conventional means, that was because Karliah’s Bow can only be gotten through console commands. Karliah’s Bow is a version of the Nightingale Bow equipped by Karliah and other Nightingale Sentinels. However, players cannot pickpocket the Bow, and it is not intended to drop when someone wielding it is killed.

What makes Karliah’s Bow so great is its base damage of 25 and weight of only nine. Base damage of 25 is incredibly significant, and players will instantly notice a jump in their damage when using it. Its weight of nine is also great because of how quickly players can move around with the Bow equipped.

However, one disappointing aspect of Karliah’s Bow is that it doesn’t have the same enchantment as the Nightingale Bow. Since it is considered a unique item, the player cannot enchant it. This can be convenient for players who aren’t interested in leveling Enchanting or don’t want to worry about constantly filling Soul Gems to charge their gear back up.

Since Karliah’s Bow is unavailable through normal means, it can only be gotten using console commands. Players need to open the command console and use the add item command with the item’s id of 000deed8. I have had some problems getting it to spawn correctly, so I recommend saving right before you try so that you can re-load and try again if it doesn’t appear in your inventory.

FAQs

Question: Are Nightingale Bow and Karliah’s Bow different in Skyrim?

Answer: Despite looking the same, the two bows are different. Karliah’s Bow has much better stats than the Nightingale Bow, although it does not feature the former’s enchantment.

Question: Are bows better or worse than crossbows in Skyrim?

Answer: Deciding between a bow or crossbow largely depends on personal preference. I prefer bows since crossbows deal more damage but take so long to reload between shots that I don’t think the damage increase is worth it.

Question: Does shooting targets grant Archery experience in Skyrim?

Answer: No, you will not gain any experience by shooting arrows at a practice target in Skyrim. To get experience, you must shoot at a living target that could fight back.

Best Bows In Skyrim: Conclusion

Archery is one of the main pillars of combat in Skyrim. Nearly every game fan has many memories of sneaking through entire dungeons by killing unaware enemies or sniping a dragon while it soars through the air.

Archery only gets better when the players gain access to some of the more powerful and unique bows throughout the game. So, now that you know the best options go and get your hands on a nice new bow to complete your build or play around with.

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